To conduct the research, we utilized a content analysis method that integrates data collection and analytical techniques to measure the occurrence of identifiable elements in a text or message (Keyton, 2001). The newspapers chosen for analysis were the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Daily Oklahoman. Those newspapers were chosen because of either their known biases (liberal or conservative), or because of their known influence on key decision makers within the government and Department of Defense. New York Times and Washington Post are commonly held to hold a liberal bias and extremely powerful when it comes to influencing politicians and business leaders. These newspapers can also be described as “newspapers of record” since they help set the agendas for other newspapers. Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and Daily Oklahoman are seen to be more conservative and representative of the Midwesterner’s views. The analysis covered all the stories relating to military operations contained with the ‘National’ and ‘International’ sections and the front page of the newspaper and the entire article was analyzed. The stories were collected by either use of a Lexis-Nexis search or gathered from microfiche from University of Oklahoma’s Bizzel Library. The daily circulation of the newspapers was not calculated nor was visits to the newspapers' website. Each article in every newspaper was given the same weight, because the goal was to see the change in stories not the impact.
The investigation featured three independent variables. The first independent variable was which war was being examined. The analysis looked at three different wars that U.S. forces participated in more than a 13-year period in order to determine what affect to news coverage embeds played in Operation Iraqi Freedom. In order to determine the impact, an analysis was conducted of the news coverage of the 1991 Gulf War, 1999 Kosovo Conflict, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. These wars were selected because they are recent, they were all multinational operations, and because the technology used by the news media is relatively similar. The analysis covered four days per war, two days immediately prior to the commencement of ground operations then two days beginning on the third and continuing through the fourth day after the ground war began. Dates chosen were as follows: Operation Desert Storm; Feb. 22-23 and 27-28, 1991; Kosovo Conflict; June 8-9 and 13-14, 1999; Operation Iraqi Freedom; Mar. 18-19 and 23-24, 2003. These dates prior to the beginning of ground operations were chosen in order to get the feel of the conflict just prior to the war. The reason for choosing the dates on the third and fourth day was that it is standard operating procedure for militaries to enforce an electronic emissions ban or reduction at the beginning of a conflict. This is done in order to prevent enemy forces from locating friendly forces by means of direction finding the source of emissions given from satellite or cellular communication devices.
The second independent variable was the reporters’ status, whether a unilateral, embed or a staff compilation from numerous sources. This variable was chosen because the research team quest to determine if there was a difference in the news coverage generated by the level of interaction between the reporters and military service members.
The last independent variable examined was the source from which reporters received their information. The researchers wanted to determine if it mattered where a reporter received their information had any correlation to the level of trust towards the military and military service members. This variable was operationalized by determining whom the reporter quoted, directly or paraphrased, in the story. The variables were government representatives, military spokesperson who was either officer or enlisted, but not a staff or public affairs officer at a higher headquarters, a mix of both government and military spokesperson, or no direct or indirect quotations in the story.
The unit of analysis was the stories reported in the various newspapers. Four Department of Defense employees affiliated with the University of Oklahoma’s Joint Communication Course conducted the coding of the stories using a code key the team created, shown in Appendix B. Coding norms were established during a 30-minute training session. Each coder then coded one newspaper; however, one coder received two newspapers. The coder then analyzed the four determined dates for all three wars. The researchers established inter-coder reliability by having an additional coder examine another newspaper in order to ensure the scores were within the established norms. The analysis was used to evaluate the articles origin, content, tone and tenor, personalities quoted, and level of speculation from the 174 stories.
The research also incorporated two scales, an Individualized Trust Scale and Semantic Differential Scale in order to determine the two dependent variables, attitude, and feeling. The Individualized Trust Scale contained five variables on a 1 – 5 scale, such as deceptive to candid, and dishonest to honest. Researchers used these questions to determine the general trustworthiness and feeling of the military and military service members portrayed in the story.
The second dependent variable was attitude. The team used a similar scale to determine if the article itself was positive or negative, good or bad, favorable or unfavorable. The scales evaluated nuances in the tone and tenor of the coverage and the reader’s feelings, generated by the article, toward the military members.